Katy Perry And Human Trafficking Survivor Steal The Show At The Grammys

Photo by BitchBuzz for Flickr.com
Photo by BitchBuzz for Flickr.com

Amidst the loud music, elaborately costumed dancers, awards distribution and other hoopla of the 2015 Grammy Awards show, there was a striking segment about domestic violence and sexual abuse. Brooke Axtell, who survived human trafficking as a youngster and later endured an abusive romantic relationship, delivered an emotional and powerful speech about combating and overcoming the pain of abuse. “Authentic love does not silence, shame or abuse,” she stated in her spoken piece. Following Ms. Axtell, Katy Perry sang “By the Grace of God,” from her most recent album Prism.

Just before Axtell spoke, a two-minute video public service announcement from President Obama was aired. In it he spoke frankly and directly about the problems of sexual violence and related abuse, and challenged all viewers to stop the abuse and educate youth about the dangers.

Axtell is a writer and singer, and is known for founding Survivors Healing and Empowerment, a support group for victims of sexual violence. She is a speaker for the organization Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. She has also worked with the SafePlace domestic violence shelter in Austin, Texas and is involved with Allies Against Slavery.

Perry’s lyrics for “By the Grace of God” can be interpreted as a monologue about enduring and then walking away from an abusive relationship. There are references to blaming one’s self for the violence (“And I felt the fault was all mine”), and then reaching out to someone for help (“I thank my sister for keeping my head above the water”). In contrast to her Super Bowl 2015 half-time show performance, a high-energy hits medley with multiple costume changes, Perry’s Grammy show performance was serious and focused on her vocal delivery.

The Grammy Award show has a very large viewership and receives a great deal of media attention, making it a ready platform for delivering messages of importance, especially to young people. This is not the first time that serious issues have been addressed during the annual telecasts. A few other news stories were touched upon in this year’s show, such as Pharrell Williams’s “hand’s up, don’t shoot” gesture and being accompanied by dancers wearing hoodies.

In my opinon, Axtell and Perry were among the?best highlights in this year’s Grammy Awards show. Overall, I thought this was one of the less-exciting Grammy shows in recent years,?but the Axtell-Perry pairing was quite strong. Hopefully it will bring awareness and help people in a variety of ways.


Ellen Levitt is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn (2009), The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011) and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (2013), all published by Avotaynu. She is a lifelong New Yorker, a veteran public school teacher, writer and photographer. Bird lover as well.